Rick Perry, intellectual

Perry, seen above rapidly drawing a crowd to the National Review booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference, needed to his outdistance the legendarily unready impression he gave to voters in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. That outing is now remembered for a debate flub during which he was unable to name the three federal departments he intended to cut. As seen in this old video, Perry’s memory failed him despite a friendly assist from then-Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who deftly played Karl Malden to Perry’s George C. Scott.

Perry’s roof-raising speech Friday, which was festooned with ten-dollar words and an emphasis on state governance as a mechanism for crowd-sourcing solutions, broke through in part because it came in a new package: Perry the collected-but-not-cool thinking man, wearing a muted tie, a bespectacled elder statesman whose long tenure as chief executive of the Lone Star state bestowed wisdom on him while showering prosperity on Texans.